• Mar 23rd 2011 at 7:57PM
  • 41
A group of Senators have sent letters to the largest smartphone manufacturers demanding the removal of applications that alert drivers of DUI checkpoints. And Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that produces the Blackberry, was the first to comply.

The letter (available after the jump) sent by Senators Harry Reid, (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Udall (D-NM) landed in the inboxes of Scott Forstall, Apple's Senior VP of iPhone Software, as well as Eric Schmidt, current head of Google and a senior executive at RIM. And the reason behind the removal was clear.

Nearly a third of all vehicle fatalities in the U.S. involve a DUI or DWI, and several apps available through the Apple App Store, Android Market and RIM's AppWorld alerts users of upcoming checkpoints, be it through crowd-sourced or using a pre-programmed and constantly updating database. The biggest culprit, according to the Senators, is PhantomALERT, which touts itself as "the world's largest driver generated and verified database of speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, school zones, DUI checkpoints, dangerous intersections and more across North America."

Neither Apple or Google – the crew behind the open-source Android mobile OS – have responded at this time, but with RIM already pulling the plug, there's a good possibility – particularly given Apple's tight control of apps – that each company could follow suit.

While the rationale behind the proposed removal is obvious, inevitably the debate about how apps play into freedom of speech and the broad brush in which other apps – like Trapster – have been caught up in the mix means a quick resolution is far off.

[Source: Senator's offices, Detroit News, RIM]

Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
Apple, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Forstall,

We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products allow customers to identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints. With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.

We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.

One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another application, with more than 10 million users, also allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.

Police officers from across the country have voiced concern about these products, with one police captain saying, "If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?" With a person dying every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, this technology should not be promoted to your customers--in fact, it shouldn't even be available.

We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern. We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.
Thank you for your prompt and careful consideration of this matter. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

Senator Reid
Senator Schumer
Senator Lautenberg
Senator Udall

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      The next app.....Will Alert child molesters, rapist, and murderers when the police are about to serve an arrest warrant on the actor .
      If you are not breaking the law, you have nothing to fear!
      As a flight nurse Ive seen the outcome of what those "ONLY 32 PERCENT" of drivers cause !
      It scares me to death that my son and daughter are out there with this "ONLY 32 percent"
      weilding 4000 pound projectiles down the road at 60mph with absolutely no control.

        • 4 Years Ago
        If the law was a shield to protect the people
        instead it is a weapon to beat the people down
        Obama = Bush3
        • 4 Years Ago
        "If you are not breaking the law, you have nothing to fear!"

        That sort of self righteous illogic is what I fear. I am not a law breaker, I don't even speed, but I fear the dilution of our civil liberties because of the ignorant complacency of my fellow countrymen. Try living in a country run by some fanatical despot and see if you still have no fear even though you're not breaking the law.

        We have some serious problems, as you mention, but we must find solutions within the framework of our constitution, and not accept unconstitutional solutions simply because the problem is so horrific.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yea...and Obama is fixing that right?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Maybe more people should Taxis but that would make sense when you are drunk.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This isn't a matter of people "needing" to avoid DUI checkpoints, this is a matter of principle - a person's right to choose their own destiny, whether they're drunk and stupid or not. This is just another example of a big corporation selling out to the pressure of Big Government.

      I already sent my libertarian rant to Blackberry corporate. I also expect this news to get the attention of anon, which will be amusing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So if I get drunk, I'm allowed to kill you and anyone in your car, and you'll defend my right to do that? Details, please. I want to know more about this right. Ground this in your libertarian philosophy, especially the part where you (now dead) chose your destiny because I was drunk.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have a right to choose whether or not you want to spend decades in jail for manslaughter. The right to be stupid is derived from the natural right of liberty.

        The government does NOT have a right to dictate what sort of applications you're allowed to download on your phone. They don't have a right to force private companies to do what they want. They think they do because of their ridiculous interpretation of the 10th Amendment, the Commerce Clause in particular, but they don't. They're wrong.

        I doubt we're getting the full details of how these senators coerced Blackberry into complying. I imagine it's got something to do with government contracts the company holds. If they want to conduct a large portion of their business by supplying phones to government workers that's their decision, but if it turns out that they've become a puppet to the government then their public perception may go down and their business might take a hit.

        But hey, this is America where nobody cares about stuff like that. They just want their phones.
      • 4 Years Ago
      US senators, defending the constitution by pissing on it.

      These old men think pushing around a private, foreign company will stop this? Please go make some jobs already.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I never drink and drive, heck I haven't been able to drink AT ALL for a while now. But I liked the checkpoint warnings in Trapster just to avoid the hassle.
      • 4 Years Ago

      "Nearly half of all vehicle fatalities in the U.S. involve a DUI or DWI ..."

      Mr. Lavrinc, link to the data please. If we continue milking this steer, we'll die of hunger. As long as there's a very convenient culprit we will never resolve a problem that is a death rate in traffic accidents in U.S. which is twice that of the other industrialized countries in western Europe. And the main culprit is .... (just like 2 years ago Time magazine put a mirror-like surface on the front page naming the person of the year) ... YOU.

      By that I mean all of us because I have never seen drivers so criminally incompetent as in U.S. and I had privilege to obtain drivers license in 3 different countries as I moved around and have driven in more than a dozen countries.

      But, of course, learning how to drive requires effort, so let's keep beating the DUI and speeders drum. Again, please publish a link that will prove the above statement so we can all learn from it. Or call BS, whichever it might be. Thank you.
        • 4 Years Ago

        "So because some of the drunks drivers are repeat offenders, we should let the rest of the drunk drivers off the hook? Because more of the drunks are repeat offenders, we should let the first time offenders kill all the people they want?"

        I don't know where you extrapolated that as a conclusion, but here it is in lighter version ...

        Say you have a country where rate of deaths after surgery was much higher than comparable countries and drinking while doing surgery is outlawed but still done. The study shows you that 32% of these deaths are alcohol-related, you still don't know what is with remaining 68%. Then an outsider tells you that your surgeons don't wash their hands and operate in jeans and t-shirt.

        Now, what do you think is a priority to do - make them wash their hands and wear appropriate attire while operating or put a policeman with breathalyzer in every operating room? Which is more pressing problem?

        Because, you see, even if we eliminated COMPLETELY drunk driving (theoretically), we would still die at a higher rate than Germany with drunks included (for example) that has controlled-access highways without speed limits on certain stretches and in certain conditions. But, for U.S. politicians, we have to crack down REALLY hard on speeders and drunks.

        So, yes, they are grand-standing fools.

        PS: I don't drive drunk, I hardly ever drink at all. I drive with flow of traffic and normally don't speed. I only want to feel safer while driving in U.S. and I feel that going after drunks is not doing anything for my safety.
        • 4 Years Ago

        Thank you.

        Now, if our smart and concerned Congressman would read the link you provided, they would see that 70% of those 32% of deaths were caused by repeated offenders driving at over 0.15 BAC. Do they really think these people even have smart phone, are capable operating them at that alcohol level or even care? What a disgusting bunch of grand standing fools.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't drink, but I don't think I should be randomly pulled over and harrassed either when I have done nothing wrong.
      I have no problem with these apps at all. The senators need to back off.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought it was required by law for them to inform us about checkpoints. Every time I'm at a bar taking a piss I see the checkpoints listed in my area in the newspaper posted above the urinal. If anything it only encourages me calling a cab rather than getting in my car and trying to avoid it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't drink and drive. I condemn those who do. I've even been hit by a drunk driver doing 60mph who didn't even touch his brakes at a red signal (very bad accident, thankfully I was in a Suburban).

      Nevertheless, I have driven miles out of my way to avoid a DUI checkpoint. Like it or not, they're unconstitutional. Unfortunately lawmakers continue to ignore the constitution and our civil rights when it becomes inconvenient.

      Good luck banning these apps from the Android market.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A) For once, senators are talking sense.

        B) Checkpoints are 100% legal.

        C) Google CAN remotely erase ANY app from your Android phone without your approval. And they did.

        they did it again in February or March this year
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't really agree with telling companies what products they should sell. At the same time however, I think we're being too lenient on people who are taking my and your life for granted and are willing to trade it in for a night of fun.

        I figure better driver training would go a long way to combat this issue.

        And also if you are stupid enough to drink and drive, I figure your licence should be taken away, and then you get a chance to re-apply in 5 years or so, starting as a beginner. I think that because drunk drivers are far too idiotic to even be in the possession of a licence, and might learn to grow up in that timespan.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I blame RIM for being such a pushover and pulling these apps without any legal backing. Even though Im sure the apps on blackberry were terrible, didnt work, and crashed without warning.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Remember when the president of MADD got a dui? God that was funny. If she can't stop herself from drinking and driving then leave the app alone :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think it's an embarrassment that these senators even have the time to consider something that should be at or near the absolute bottom of the totem pole of priorities for this country's legislature. The issue has nothing to do with deaths that result from drunk driving - it has to do with deaths resulting from a drunk driver causing an accident while avoiding a DUI checkpoint that he was notified of on his smartphone. The statistical insignificance of that possibility is probably in the ballpark of a monkey composing Macbeth. MADD and all of the other rabid reactionary gestapo groups in this country need to get real jobs and start doing something that will help turn around our massive debt, severe shortcomings in education and rampant unemployment.
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